Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tehran

By Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss

This week the words of Wendell Berry come to mind: “We concluded in 1945, after our atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that we had made war ‘unthinkable’ -- and we have gone on thinking of it, preparing for it, fighting it, suffering and profiting from it ever since.” Who could have imagined, in the midst of a disastrous war in Iraq, that we would be in such desperate need of remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki? After all, war is utterly destructive and incredibly costly -- win, lose or draw.

And yet, according to former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, “the war between the United States and Iran is on.” More than 230 members of Congress are co-sponsoring a proposal, which includes language that sounds an awful lot like a unilateral naval blockade of Iran -- deemed by the UN to constitute an act of war unless sanctioned by a Security Council resolution. And in case you missed it, Congress already approved $400 million to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran (which may include a major air attack and a nuclear option).

Initially dismissed by the American public as absurd and implausible, war with Iran remains an abiding concern to those closest to the Bush administration. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has long favored talks with Iran while strongly discouraging military action. In an off-the-record lunch meeting with the Democratic caucus in the Senate, one senator recalls that Secretary Gates warned of the consequences of a pre-emptive strike on Iran, saying “We’ll create generations of jihadists, and our grandchildren will be battling our enemies here in America.” Admiral Fallon, described by Esquire magazine as the only thing standing between the Bush Administration and war with Iran, resigned from his role as Commander of the U.S. Central Command, citing complications with the administration. Meanwhile, the gang of five former secretaries of State -- Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, and Madeline Albright -- recently urged the U.S. to open a line of dialogue with Iran. “One has to talk with adversaries,” said Kissinger.

In January, Kissinger joined Sam Nunn, George Shultz, and William Perry to call for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. The elephant in the room, of course, is what Mohamed El-Baradei, head of the IAEA, calls “the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to pursue nuclear weapons but morally acceptable for others to rely on them.” Even if most Americans agree that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon, we’ve surrendered the moral high ground with our cache of thousands of nuclear warheads, which we maintain to the tune of $16 billion annually. In May, 79 Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim groups joined together to oppose the Bush administration’s plans to reactivate the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure and build new nuclear bomb plant facilities. These people of faith agree that the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons is ultimately a spiritual failure and rising up from under the shadow of nuclear weapons will require political and moral courage.

Thankfully, members of Congress are slowly withdrawing their support under the pressure of Americans resisting yet another rush to war. A preemptive strike with the purpose of preventing the development of a nuclear Iran might be the legacy that Bush seeks, but it would be catastrophic for our nation and our grandchildren. And arming militant dissident groups opposed to the Iranian government in a covert operation funded by taxpayers is the very strategy we used to arm dangerous warlords in Afghanistan.

As we round the bend on yet another anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the question remains: When will we learn that guns, nukes, and war don’t deliver a more secure world?
Hendler-Voss is the Faith Communities Coordinator of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 8/08

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